Grade Level: Fifth
Forge is the second book in the Seeds of America trilogy. I have already written about my unconditional love for the first book, Chains and I fully intend to dote just as much about the final book in this trilogy: Ashes.
Forge picks up with the prelude which is the moment Isabel and Curzon reach the other side of the river. Chapter one picks up 9 months after Curzon and Isabel’s escape. We quickly learn that Curzon is alone because Isabel ran away from him.
I cannot conclusively say that Forge is my favorite of the 3 because I have not Ashes, but it is REALLY AMAZING!
On his way to find the road to Albany, Curzon finds himself in the middle of the Battle of Saratoga. Curzon follows his instincts and saves a young colonial soldier named Ebenezer. Caught up in the constant movement of camp and in an attempt to further escape slavery, Curzon finds himself signing up for the duration of the war.
Moving out from New York, the 16th Massachusetts beds down in a small town outside of Philadelphia: Valley Forge. There the colonial soldiers must build their own huts with limited to no tools. In order to motivate the soldiers, Washington offers $12 to the squad who builds their hut the fastest.
Curzon lives side by side with the other soldiers at Valley Forge. But despite his service, he still must handle personal attacks and slights made at him because of his color. Curzon continues to serve awaiting the day the war is over and his freedom is granted.
One day, all the men line up because George Washington is bringing in the Continental Congress to show the needs of the men. Among the Congressmen is Mr. Bellingham, Curzon’s master. Through smooth talking and a white lie, Bellingham gets Curzon to move into Moore Hall.
Suddenly and without warning, Curzon finds himself waiting on Bellingham and the other Congressmen. He is angry and bitter, but must maintain proper behavior for the sake of the house maid: Isabel.
The rest of the novel follows Curzon’s desire to rescue himself and Isabel from the life of slavery.
Forge ends just like Chains, with Curzon and Isabel escaping the chains that bind them.
As with any book set in a war, there are a few more gruesome scenes. On page 14, Curzon describes the death of a British soldier Eben kills. A few characters do die throughout the novel from sickness or battle.
This book is also set during a time of inequality. Curzon will be made fun of and mistreated do to his color.
The majority of the characters in this book are young men who are fighting for independence. In one instance, Benny rips his pants and as a result he “cusses” and his fellow continentals give him a hard time about the possible consequences of frostbite. (Page 95)
War changes people. The reader can see the changes in Mr. Bellingham. On page 196, he tells Curzon that if he tries anything, Isabel will suffer his punishment.
We leave this novel much the same way we left Chains. But this time, Curzon and Isabel are not alone; they are marched out of Valley Forge by Curzon’s brothers-in-arms.
Lesson Plan Ideas:
*Check out my workbook!
*This book is historical fiction and as such lends itself to a lot of research ideas.
-Research the Battle of Saratoga (TEKS 8.4C, the first 10 chapters are all set in Oct 1777)
-Research the Hessians
-Research the resources of the British Soldiers
-Research the role of women in the fighting
-Research the Spy ring created by Washington
-Research the different ways slave owners punished slaves for running away
-Research the use of slaves and Native Americans in the Continental and British armies.
-Research the assistance of Spain and France
*Compare the officers in the continental army to the privates.
-Write a diary entry as a private at Valley Forge and express your thoughts about the situation of the officers versus your situation.
*Write a response to Silvenus’ thoughts on page 121: “This camp is a forge for the army; it’s testing our mettle. Instead of heat and hammer, our trials are cold and hunger. Question is, what are we made of?”
*Analyze the image: Washington presenting Congressional Committee to soldiers at Valley Forge
*Write a response to Curzon’s thoughts: “We were American soldiers and there was pride enough in that to make a fellow stand tall.” (pg 144)
*Write a diary entry as Isabel discussing your desire to leave with Gideon but your fears at leaving Curzon.